Current Members


Faculty

Amita Sehgal, Ph.D.

Amita Sehgal, Ph.D.

John Herr Musser Professor of Neuroscience

Faculty Biography

Julie Williams, Ph.D.

Julie Williams, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor

Faculty Biography


Administration

Jennifer Hunter

Jennifer Hunter

Administrative Coordinator
 nhunter@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 (215) 898-2799


Scientific

Bernardez, Sara

Bernardez, Sara

Post-Doctoral Fellow

How do the brain and body talk to each other? And even more, how does that serve us to feel good? Those questions motivated Sara to move from Spain to Switzerland, complete PhD in Neuroscience in Zurich and now cross the Atlantic to keep digging into them at the Sehgal Lab. During her postdoc she will look at how sleep is encoded in the brain when our body is sick, because yes! How good it feels when our brain puts our body to sleep to recover from disease!

Carvalhas, Catarina

Carvalhas, Catarina

Visiting Student

Catarina Carvalhas-Almeida is a PhD student in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology – University of Coimbra. Her research project investigates the impact of sleep deprivation on neuron-glia interplay and glial clocks. This work will be performed in collaboration with Sehgal lab at the Chronobiology and Sleep Institute, University of Pennsylvania, USA. With these tasks, she hopes to provide new insights into how glia and neurons generate biological rhythms to regulate sleep, highlighting the neural consequences of sleep deprivation, a highly prevalent problem in our society.

Chen, Dechun

Chen, Dechun

Lab Manager

Cho, Bumsik

Cho, Bumsik

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Bumsik received his Ph.D. from Hanyang University in Korea under the supervising of Jiwon Shim. During his PhD, he studied how hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell populations are maintained by endogenous or exogenous signals. However, contrary to previous studies, Bumsik was also curious about how animals can maintain homeostasis in each organ through blood cells. In particular, he was interested in regulating the homeostasis of the body through the brain and blood cells interaction. As a postdoctoral researcher in Sehgal's lab, Bumsik would like to find out how the blood cell affects sleep or circadian rhythm.

Costa, Paula

Costa, Paula

Pre-Doctoral Trainee

Paula was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and moved to the U.S in 2017. She completed her Bachelor’s degree at the University at Buffalo. As an undergraduate, Paula studied the effects of the estrous cycle on NPSR-mediated behaviors with Dr. Stewart Clark. She joined the Sehgal lab in 2023 as a thesis student, and will be studying the role of the blood-brain barrier in regulating sleep.

Cuddapah, Vishnu

Cuddapah, Vishnu

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Physician Scientist

Vishnu graduated from the Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD) at the University of Alabama in Birmingham in 2015. Mentored by Dr. Harald Sontheimer, Vishnu's PhD in neuroscience demonstrated the importance of chloride channels in cellular migration and proliferation. He completed his child neurology residency at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 2020, followed a clinical neurogenetics fellowship in 2021. Vishnu's research training is now focused on using the fly model system to understand how neurogenetic disorders affect, and are affected by, circadian rhythms and sleep. 

Deal, Samantha

Deal, Samantha

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Samantha received her Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from Baylor College of Medicine in the laboratory of Dr. Shinya Yamamoto. While in his lab, she performed two forward genetic screens in Drosophila – one to identify genetic regulators of dopamine metabolism and another to functionally classify genetic variants found in patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Samantha is fascinated by neurogenetics and works to understand how specific genes and genetic variants may contribute to neurodevelopment and neurological disease. In the Sehgal lab, Samantha will be investigating the relationship between mitochondrial disease, metabolism disruption, and sleep disturbance.

Guevara, Camilo

Guevara, Camilo

Pre-Doctoral Trainee

Camilo was born in Bogotá, Colombia, where he received his MSc after investigating the effect of lithium in calcium signaling in Purkinje neurons. Attracted by one of biology's biggest mysteries, he joined the lab in 2022 to study sleep. Camilo's current projects aim to understand sleep regulation at different scales. At the cellular scale, he is studying how organelles relevant to lipid and ROS metabolism regulate sleep. While at the circuit and organismal level, he uses in vivo imaging to understand the interaction between circadian and sleep circuits. Camilo likes playing with fancy microscopes.

Iascone, Daniel

Iascone, Daniel

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Dan grew up in Massachusetts, and received his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his PhD in Franck Polleux’s lab at Columbia University, where he developed tools to map synapses across whole pyramidal neurons and studied how global synaptic organization changes in mice expressing the human gene-duplication SRGAP2C. Dan is interested in the timing of brain development across evolution, and in the Sehgal lab his current research is focused on creating a model system in Drosophila to investigate the genetic control of developmental tempo across species and environments.

Kanigicherla, Vishal

Kanigicherla, Vishal

Undergraduate Student

Vishal, from northern Virginia, is a Biochemistry and Neurobiology major in the Vagelos program. He is interested in circadian rhythms as they relate to neuron degeneration, and will be working with Elana Pyfrom in the Sehgal Lab beginning in 2022.

Killiany, Samantha

Killiany, Samantha

Research Specialist

Samantha grew up in Greentown, Pennsylvania, and received her Bachelor's of Science degree in Biology from Bucknell University. As an undergraduate, Samantha studied and identified inputs to discrete motor units which control various phases of flight steering behaviors in Drosophila, under the mentorship of Dr. Matthew Clark. Understanding how complex behaviors are coordinated by neural circuits is what helped to develop her curiosity in the field of neuroscience. Following graduation from Bucknell University, Samantha joined the Sehgal Lab to work under Dr. Amita Sehgal in various projects studying sleep and circadian rhythms.

Li, Fu

Li, Fu

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Fu was born in central China and got his B.S. and M.S. at Sichuan University and Tsinghua University, respectively. Afterwards, he moved to Germany and worked at Max Planck Institute for his doctoral study on membrane trafficking. At Penn, he will use fruit fly and mice models to investigate the endocytosis roles in the blood-brain-barrier (BBB).

Lopez Valencia, Mariela

Lopez Valencia, Mariela

Pre-Doctoral Trainee

Mariela graduated with a B.S. in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience from UC San Diego in 2020. During her time there she worked with Dr. Olivia Osborn where she investigated the mechanisms by which antipsychotic medications induce food intake and weight gain. She also worked with Dr. Christina Gremel investigating the neural circuits that control decision-making as well as how alcohol dependence disrupts such circuits. Mariela joined the lab in 2022 and is now interested in investigating the role of specific genetic mutations in metabolism and sleep.

Luu, Kiet

Luu, Kiet

Technician

Pivarshev, Pavel

Pivarshev, Pavel

Research Technician

Pavel is an Aquarius. He was born in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia; grew up in Columbus, GA; and earned a Biology B.S. & Visual Arts B.A. from Duke University in Durham, NC. As an undergrad, he worked at two Evolutionary Biology labs, investigating broad genetic concepts like natural selection & adaptive evolution. He also helped out at the Nijhout Lab, studying the phylogenesis of butterfly wings. Post-graduation, he moved to Philly and joined the Sehgal lab–now, he has his hands on multiple projects studying sleep, & circadian rhythms.

Madhwal, Sukanya

Madhwal, Sukanya

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Sukanya earned her Ph.D. in Tina Mukherjee's lab at InStem, Bangalore in India. Her doctoral research focused on uncovering the relevance of the olfactory perception of the environment with the development of blood cells and along with investigating the homeostatic functions of blood cells. In Sehgal's lab, her current area of interest revolves around uncovering the regulation and relevance of circadian rhythms in peripheral tissues, specifically focusing on the immune system.

Moore, Rebecca

Moore, Rebecca

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Rebecca has always been fascinated by the way organisms modify their behavior using clues from their environment. Understanding these host-environmental interactions has served as a motivation for her previous research. Rebecca completed her PhD in the lab of Dr. Coleen T. Murphy from the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University studying C. elegans transgenerational epigenetic avoidance behavior following exposure to the gram-negative pathogen P. aeruginosa. Rebecca is interested in using her previous research experiences to study inter tissue communication during sleep. More specifically, Rebecca will work in the Sehgal lab to understand how gut-secreted molecules affect sleep in flies. This research will shed light on molecules that navigate the body to promote or inhibit sleep.

Nguyen, Andrew

Nguyen, Andrew

Pre-Doctoral Trainee

Andrew is a PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Group. He grew up in the cornfields of Illinois and moved out to the east coast, where he graduated with a B.S. in Cognitive and Brain Sciences from Tufts University. As an undergrad, Andrew conducted an honors thesis with Dr. Rob Jackson investigating glial factors regulating sleep in flies. Afterwards, he joined Dr. Michael Young at The Rockefeller University as a research assistant working on several projects related to genetic mechanisms of sleep and circadian rhythms in flies before coming to Penn. In the Sehgal lab, he is mainly interested in body-brain communication and is planning to focus on understanding the relationship between peripheral inflammation and sleep in the gut-brain axis.

Pyfrom, Elana

Pyfrom, Elana

Pre-Doctoral Trainee

Elana is a Cell and Molecular Biology-Genetics & Epigenetics track PhD student. She grew up in Maryland, received her Sc.B. in Molecular and Cell Biology at Brown University, and worked in Andrew Gordus’ worm+spider neuroscience lab before coming to Penn. She is interested in how environmental factors influence genetic and metabolic processes, so she is also completing training in PSOM’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology. Upon joining the Sehgal Lab in 2020, Elana plans to characterize mechanisms of lipid metabolism which regulate sleep need.

Shoenhard, Hannah

Shoenhard, Hannah

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Hannah comes to the Sehgal lab after earning her PhD with the Granato lab, also at the University of Pennsylvania. For her PhD, she studied the genetics and circuitry underlying a sensorimotor decision in larval zebrafish. Before coming to UPenn, she attended Scripps College, where she studied philosophy and the neuroscience of how songbirds learn and retain their signature melodies. In the Sehgal lab, she is interested in studying how sleep facilitates certain forms of learning and memory. 

Yang, Jianing

Yang, Jianing

Post-Doctoral Fellow

Jianing received her BA at Colby College majoring in Mathematics and Physics. In addition, she received her PhD in Mathematics at University of Pennsylvania, studying Arithmetic Geometry with advisor David Harbater. Jianing is now embarking on a new journey transitioning into Bioinformatics, and is excited to do Statistical Analysis on the sleep-related experiments, among other things, at the Sehgal lab. 

Yue, Zhifeng

Yue, Zhifeng

Technician